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Raleigh in 2022: We’re still here, now make our future better for all

How could Raleigh be better for more communities in 2022? We asked local community leaders and doers to share their ideas for the future. 

The next essay is from Nick Neptune, a civic entrepreneur and community advocate. Nick is the associate director of advocacy and education with WakeUP Wake County, and currently serves as the Board Chair and President of Oaks and Spokes and Vice Chair of the City of Raleigh’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission; he also serves on the boards of the Wake Tech Foundation and Diversify Architecture. 

By Nick Neptune

How could Raleigh be better for more communities in 2022, where people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds enjoy an improved quality of life in our growing city? It’s a question worth our full consideration. 

Whether you’ve lived here for a few months or a few decades, you’re here now – and we need not leave the future growth and development of our city up for grabs by big business, big tech or big pharma – especially when we all have a role to play.  

Regardless of where you’ve come from, we’ve all endured an inauspicious start to this decade – global pandemic, economic collapse, social unrest, escalating climate change, and our very own democratic republic seemingly on the brink. 

And yet, look at us, we’re still here. 

Despite the sheer scope and scale of the calamity that has befallen our times, since 2020 our City of Raleigh has: 

  • Passed an $80 million affordable housing bond
  • Adopted equitable transit-oriented development guidelines and begun investments in Bus Rapid Transit corridors, among other improvements to our local transit system;
  • Completed major renovation and construction projects at the nationally-recognized Historic John Chavis Memorial Park and begun work on the highly-anticipated 308-acre Dorothea Dix Park
  • Created new offices: of Equity and Inclusion; Community Engagement; and Strategy and Innovation
  • And hired a new City Manager and Raleigh Police Chief – both of whom, it’s worth mentioning, are very talented Black women who care deeply for their City and its people. 
    • (Note: Raleigh’s Council-Manager system of local governance means that our council-appointed full-time City Manager is actually responsible for the day-to-day operations of the City, while our elected part-time mayor/council makes policy, approves budgets and performs various ceremonial functions – in other words, hiring a new City Manager is a very big deal.)  

This, my friends, is the state of play – the State of the City, if you will – as we head into 2022. Has it been perfect? Has it been utterly devoid of scandal? No, of course not – we’ve endured decisions made during closed-door sessions, episodes lacking in clear communication and guidance, and an elected official resigning in disgrace. 

I don’t necessarily anticipate perfection though, especially given the truth of our shared humanity and shortcomings. And yet, in the context of a people, a council, and city striving to do the best it could through events unprecedented for an entire generation – I believe we fared alright.  

So, one begins to wonder if we doubled down on making an effort as we emerge from the pandemic, on making a contribution in our backyard – what could we achieve in 2022 and beyond? 

I’ve lived in Raleigh for just over 10 years now; in the Triangle for just over 15. It’s an understatement to say that a lot has happened in that time. I’ve found myself working, learning, and largely reconciling – reconciling the United States and world I was introduced to throughout K-12 versus the one I’d come to know as a young adult in my 20s and 30s, while living in a rapidly growing and developing city and region. It’s not been easy. It’s not always been kind. And I’d be the first to admit that I’ve certainly been far from perfect throughout that time. 

Yet the promise and potential of the city I was encouraged to visit and live in just over 10 years ago remains firm today.

I’ve navigated a career from the classroom on into the community as my field of practice for engagement, advocacy, and education over that time. I’ve concluded that Raleigh and its people are not unlike what the London-based Monocle magazine editors have observed in that “we can all make an impact on where we live; that we can benefit from seeing what others have achieved; (and) that small ideas often deliver more than grand plans.”

We’ve all got a role to play on the team that is Raleigh – how will you step into yours in 2022 and beyond?

  • Are you upset with City Council? Be sure you’re registered to vote in advance of elections this coming fall 2022. Voting is a good place to start. Perhaps you might even consider running for a seat
  • Concerned about sustainable growth and equitable development in our city and region?  Consider joining WakeUP Wake County – these are issues this nonpartisan, nonprofit has been engaged in since 2006. 
  • Want something a bit more active? Oaks and Spokes, Raleigh’s local cycling nonprofit has long advocated for safer streets and all ages and abilities infrastructure – and enjoys its fair share of events and social bike rides – there’s no doubt you’d be welcome with open arms. 
  • Believe the improved future of our neighborhoods depends on greater representation of BIPOC communities in the fields that build and design them? Founded in Raleigh, Diversify Architecture is working to expand that access through programming and mentorship K – College and beyond and would love to have your support.
  • Or perhaps supporting a pillar of education and economic opportunity is more your speed? Consider joining and supporting the incredible work of the Wake Tech Community College Foundation.   

Aren’t quite ready to make a commitment of time and energy? These nonprofits would surely appreciate a monetary donation to support their good work.

The truth is there are countless organizations seeking to tackle the countless challenges that our growing city is confronting, and there are countless ways for you to get involved to do your part in helping shape it. 

We’ve all got a role to play; let’s get to it – together. 

See you soon.

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